Supporting Learning Disabilities and Special Needs Students

Because of Edmonton's growth in students and reduction in funding, it is clear to me that the status quo is not sustainable, and the level of education to which families in Edmonton have grown accustomed will be challenged. So what deteriorates, and what do we stop doing?

At the last meeting when we voted on our distribution of funds, one of the areas we wrestled with was inclusion and staffing levels for supporting special needs students. I requested information for our own district budget and I would like to see this reviewed across Alberta as well.

I'll be hosting a Trustee Talk with Greta from Strategic Alliance for Learning Disabilities on Monday, April 26th and I invite you to attend. You can register here and I'll send a virtual link prior to the meeting: https://forms.gle/4fnegw4v52nob1K5A

Please keep reading to provide feedback on our funding for special needs students as well as my call for a provincial review of inclusion.

Our funding per student used to equate to a certain number of funds per student. Now that has been changed and there is a new formula in place which you can see here: https://www.epsb.ca/media/epsb/ourdistrict/boardoftrustees/boardmeetings/2020-21/april132021/02-2021-2022DistributionofFunds.pdf (atttaachment VII)

One of the questions I put forward as a request for information was, what are the funding implications if we were to amend the funding formula for next year to ensure that a level 8 is provided for a full-time unit cost and a level 7 to equate to .75 of an Education Assistant?

My experience is that we are not funded nearly suffiently for special needs students, and we already every year spend millions more then we are funded for by the government of Alberta. There are a number of areas, especially in the early years, where the inabilty to fund and support studnets with the most complex challegnes to find success.

Personally, I think it is high time we examine how inclusion is working, or isn't, across Alberta. I would like to see an investigation by the provincial Auditor General into the challenges and barriers to achieving inclusion as intended by the 2009 “Setting the Direction” framework. This could include, but not be limited to, inclusion, class size composition, supports, comparisons to other jurisdictions, court rulings, and funding.

The initiative, Setting the Direction for Special Education in Alberta, was established in the Spring of 2008 and was intended to create a new paradigm for special education to serve school divisions in their work to support students with special education needs. It was a major Alberta Education project designed to create a new framework to help students with special needs receive the education they need to be successful.

The intention of the initiative was to suggest systemic change, where all students are provided with the supports, programs and services they need to be successful. Twelve years later, it is time to assess the objectives laid out in that report.

Anecdotal feedback from teachers and parents report greater struggles with inclusion as resources diminish and it is more challenging to serve all students to the level they deserve. Worse yet, the pandemic has led many families of special needs students to struggle with inadequate or inconsistent supports.

Over the last decade the rhetoric of inclusion has been widely adopted, but funding models, especially the Weighted Moving Average have not kept pace with the growth and complexity of special needs students, especially with a freeze of the provincial education budget.

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  • Michael Janz
    published this page in Blog 2021-04-17 12:14:28 -0600

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